world


Nelson Mandela

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others

Mandela…

To the world his death is the loss of a leader. Someone that remembered and lived for the people. Someone who fought for the rights of everyone no matter who or what they were. Someone who stood for peace first but with an iron fist and voice when needed. Someone who knew that to lead was to take a journey no one else was brave enough to take.

To the world his death is the loss of a friend. Someone who loved all people big and small, rich and poor. Someone who cared for everyone no matter who or what they were. Someone who knew that his love came with both a warm embrace and a stern word when we lost our direction. Someone who led from the front and guided us on the journeys we had to take but were too scared to take.

To the world his death is the loss of an inspiration. Someone who showed us how to love every single person in this world even those who don’t deserve it. Someone who taught us how to care for every single soul whether they needed it or not. Someone who inspired us to fight for peace when love couldn’t get us there. Someone who made us brave enough to take those journeys we were too afraid to face on our own.

To the world his death is the loss of an idea. Someone  that stood for everything that is good in this world. Someone that stood up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves. Someone who refused to be quiet when he saw a wrong.  Someone who knew to be a man was to stand for something good. Someone who stood up and protected us against the nightmares of this world. Someone who made us want to be better than what we really were. Someone who comforted us even when his own pain was too much.

To the world his death is the loss of Mandela. Bigger than anything else that walked this earth. A giant amongst men. A giant amongst all people. The giant who carried us on his back when the road was too tough. The mother who carried us in his arms when we needed just a little comfort and love. Mandela. King of kings. God amongst gods. Nelson Mandela.

To the world he is all Mandela.

To us South Africans he is Madiba. Our father. Our soul. Our Ubuntu. We are because he was. No, because he is. Our daily inspiration. Our voice of conscious. Our everything. Our South Africa. We walk in his shadow. We strive to be the people and nation he saw. We try to love the way he loved all of us. We try to be a little bit of him.

To me he is Tata. Father. Dad. Papa. Respect, honor, love, duty, responsibility and everything I have been taught about being me. The man I want to be is a reflection of him. Who I am to become. He is me and I am him. Because of Tata I am.

Goodbye Tata. Stay warm, Tata. Stay with us just a little longer. Just a little longer until we are brave enough. I love you. I miss you. My Tata.

Rest, my Tata. Sleep well, Tata. Tomorrow is coming. We will make you proud. I will make you proud.

Viva Mandela, Viva. Amandla Madiba, Amandla. Long Live Tata, Long Live.

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Really? Maybe not...

America is a bit like Marmite – you either love it or hate it. But one thing is for sure, it seems as if everyone has an opinion about America. How great America is or how bad it can be. It all comes down to the problem with America. What is the problem with America?

Well, as a start, part of the question relates to a little thing called dependency. They are the big guys on the block. Pretty much “the dude”. They sneeze and we catch a cold. And we are a bit like the media – we build them up and then want to shoot them down when given half a chance. Why? Because we can’t live without them. We are dependent on them. And that makes us pissed and jealous. But that’s not the problem with America.

The simple answer is that we know that the problems of the world won’t be solved without America. Whether we want peace or the end of poverty or someone to deal with global warming or a fairer world trade regime – it doesn’t mean jack shit if you don’t have America inside the tent. Oh we can ask the Europeans to do their bit or ask African leaders to be a bit more responsible or get the Chinese cut their own carbon footprint. The reality is that none of that will work if America doesn’t come and play. It’s always better to have them in the tent pissing out than having them piss on our little parade.

We can’t solve it or deal with it at a global scale without America. That’s part of the problem. But that isn’t the problem with America.

Part of the problem is that sometimes we don’t like the answer we get from big brother America. Want a global legal system dealing with global crime? Sounds like a good idea. But a bit toothless because America refuses to sign on the dotted line. Want to stop landmines from blowing kids up after a war? Great! Get an international treaty to deal with that. But we know it will continue to give the bad guys a cop-out as long as America refuses to support it. Want to deal with those computers being dumped in Africa and the kids inhaling the fumes of burning computers for copper? Let’s all agree to keep our electronic shit at home then. Sounds like a great idea. But pretty useless because America doesn’t support the idea. That’s a problem. Sometimes we don’t get the answer we want. And we don’t like it.

Sometimes it just looks like America is in it for themselves. Thinking about what is best for them. What America needs. Instead of thinking of what we need. But that is not the problem with America. That’s just a problem with those darn humans.

Tell me. What do you want from life? Have you noticed how that involves you? Most answers are about the self. The human aspect. Sometimes it’s materialistic things we want – a bigger car and a bigger house and a  bigger telly and more bigger things. Supersize my life. But even those nice warm fuzzy answers are all about the me inside. A peaceful life and some love. You are thinking of you. And your only interest in the outside is how they might impact on your life.

When your government decides to help those on the outside. Do you bitch and remind them of the problems at home? Do you constantly try to tell your government how to make the world a better place or just your little world? I don’t mean the one off donation or being pissed at your government not doing more about Zimbabwe. We all have our moments of madness. Most of the time it’s just me-me-me isn’t it? Oh you cloak it in nice fuzzy language and make as if it is for the whole world. But it’s really about what is good for you and your country in most cases. I haven’t seen it any other way. I don’t judge this. I’m not saying it is wrong. I’m just saying…

Oh I know there are groups out there doing work on a global scale. Mostly crap like global religious fanatics. But I am talking about the good stuff. Making the world a better place. Even when working on these issues you think of yourself and your way and not the others and their way. Or try to find an “our way”. Oxfam? Love them to bits but over 90% of senior management in the UK was British. Sorry, that’s not really global. It’s just colonialism cloaked in goodness. Like the original one. Greenpeace? The luxury of fighting for whales while people die of hunger. None of these people are bad. They are just in it for themselves. But cloaked in goodness and all things nice.

Now what is wrong with that? What is the problem with that?

What is the problem with us?

What is the problem with America?

Maybe we are asking the wrong question here. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking what the problem is with America. Maybe the question should be what’s the problem with us.

Maybe the problem with America is that they are just a little bit too much like us. Americans are just a tad too much like me and you. Just your average people trying to live a decent life. Their life. Maybe that is the problem. Maybe the problem is that America is in all of us. America is us. And we are America.

Yes, the problem with America is us. You, me and our American friends. All of us. That’s the problem.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that once we realize we are all one then we start looking after ourselves.

All of us.

Us Americans.

009

It’s odd how we look at the problems of the world and just continue to live our daily lives. Like driving past a car crash and thanking God it wasn’t us.

Zimbabwe is a car crash of we witness in our world. And we all slow down to stare, shake our heads and say, “Oh shame, I wonder what happened”. But no one stops to help. At most we will phone 911-AU or 1-800-UN and hope they will sort it out. But we drive on. Not stopping to help. Because we don’t want to “get involved” or get our hands dirty. And, in any case, we have an important meeting to go to and just didn’t do that bloody first aid course. We drive on because we have good reasons. Sorry, excuses.

But there are different types of car crashes in this world. We never stop to look at the reason. We assume we know. And behind every assumption is an idiot waiting to crash.

There is the drunk idiot driver that thinks he can just do whatever the hell he wants. Mugabe for example… They drive the way they want and crash where they want because alcohol makes you feel invincible. Just like power politics. Nothing can touch you. And you go ahead and do stupid things and drive as if you own the road, but we know you are going to crash. And take a few people out with you. Innocent bystanders and passengers. But like real people we watch you get drunk and never actually ask you to leave the keys and take a cab. No, we are to scared you might be offended…

But you are an idiot. An idiot for getting drunk on the power the steering wheel of life gives you. And an idiot for the false sense of safety the cacoon car gives you. I would stop and applaud your crash if it wasn’t for the innocent passengers and bystanders.

And then there are those who crash and they had nothing to do with it. A tyre blew and the car is hanging on a cliff – ready to crash down and take everyone on board with them. These drivers drive old cars with worn tyres and clunky bodies. It’s not that they want to have a crap car but they can’t afford a new one. And they have to take the commute of life to stay alive. They drive their crappy cars to work each day hoping that they will make it there and back safely. They don’t want to but they can’t help it. It’s life. And they are at the bottom of the piles of bodies. The janitors of life. Zambia…

My beautiful Zambia. The most amazing people in the world. Never been in a war. More Swiss than the Swiss. But they have a land-locked country with little to sell to the world. But they survive most of the time. And the crash we see is in slow motion. Like a bad dream. We can see it happening and we can rush out to help but like in those dreams… we are always just a little bit too late. It’s the hand they got dealt living on the wrong side of the track. But they continue to move along and try and make it to work for another day. Maybe that crash won’t come today. Maybe not tomorrow or even next week. But we know those tyres can’t last forever…

And sometimes everyone crashes while we drive by in our luxury vehicle of money and ownership. The roads are wet or full of sleet. People go off the road and crash into each other left, right and centre. But we are comfy in our luxury vehicle. We slow down a bit to stop us from sliding off the road and swerve to miss the others crashing around us. We just slow down enough not to get involved or harmed. The slippery dreadful roads are the economy. Making it dangerous for everyone. But those with money will slow down a bit. But they will survive while the others crash without reason. Those others didn’t speed or blow a tyre. It was just that there were no warning signs when they came around that economic bend. It’s a dead-end road. It’s their end of the road.

And even if the luxury vehicle slips and slides off the road they know they will be fine. Their cars have automatic recovery and crash warning systems, the latest safety devices to cushion the blow – and insurance to cover their costs if anything unforeseen happens. It’s life. It’s a hiccup for them. Lose a car or a million but they know they will be okay. Except if they got insured by Madoff & Co. Then daddy will have to bail them out. He always does. For them.

Of course it all is very different when someone crashes through our front door or wall. Then we get all worked up and want to beat the bloody guy up and want the police and insurance to deal with it right now! Because then it happened to us.

It happened to us…

Those people crashing everywhere around us? They are not us. It only happens to other people. Not to us. It’s never us.

Car crashes… That’s life in our little world. One car crash after the other. Thank god we have a few people who stop and help. And a handful of firemen and paramedics. Not enough to save the world. But enough to save a few while we drive past and shake our heads…

Maybe we all just suffer from road rage.

You know what? I don’t have a licence…

The G20 protest in London is all the news today. CNN can’t stop showing the few people protesting and hoping that something would happen. Something “news worthy”… Yawn. Big bore. These people don’t know how to protest. I remember the last real protest I was involved in. Back in 1999… Seattle… The WTO… And the streets were filled with protesters. (Okay, some were demonstrators because they didn’t really know what they were against or for but that is just a minor technicality.) It was fun…

wto_seattle_99

Let's play...

The Battle of Seattle and me

I was as excited as hell. Minister Alec Erwin, then Minister of Trade and Industry of South Africa, asked me to be part of the Ministerial Team to go to the WTO round in Seattle. Not only was it an incredible honour to represent my country, but this was going to be my first trip to the US. USA here we come!

It was a long, long flight to Seattle. It’s a 14 hour flight to Miami and another 7 hours to Seattle. And a few hours hanging around Miami waiting for our connecting flight. It took me just more than 24 hours to get from Cape Town to Seattle. Remember, those were my smoking days…

No luck in having a smoke in Miami. Welcome to the US – where smoking was already banned. I was held up by security for a while. I guess my diplomatic passport didn’t do the job. Yep, got one of those but only for the duration of Seattle WTO round. No time for a smoke. I was slowly dying by this time.

Actually it wasn’t that bad. I am like Pavlov’s Dog when it comes to flying. I fall asleep the second I feel the engines starting. So I slept pretty much for 20 hours plus. I was wide awake by the time we got to Seattle in the middle of the night. Time to hit the bars then.

Dennis George, from another trade union federation, and myself decided to go for a few beers and see if that would get us ready for bed. The theory was that we will either get tired or pass out if we drank enough. So we sat in an almost empty bar and had a few bad beers – my first Bud was my last Bud. Might be the worse beer I’ve ever had. And I’ve had some odd beers in weird places. The only other people in the bar was the barman, one fat middle aged with a walking stick (me today minus the walking stick) and a beautiful girl in her 20’s. They weren’t together.

The girl got up to leave and started walking in our direction to get out – we sat close to the exit. Dennis looked at her and as she came closer – well more of a stare than a look. You need to know Dennis… She almost passed us when Dennis mumbled a hello. She stopped and turned towards us – and looked at us for a few seconds. And then she asked if she could join us.

That was odd. Neither Dennis or myself are much to look at. Our beauty is more internal… Dennis bought her a drink and I just looked at her trying to figure out why she wanted to join us. So I asked, “what do you do for a living?” She was a “private exotic dancer”, she said. I was trying to figure it out – and then it hit me. “So, what does a private exotic dancer do?” “Anything you would like me to do. In private.” Confirmed – she was a prostitute.

With that out the way it made it easier to talk. I wasn’t going to sleep with anyone or pay for that matter. I would have to leave if she wasn’t a prostitute. I am happily married and have no interest in other women. But with her being a prostitute it meant that she wouldn’t want to sleep with me in any case – I wasn’t going to pay! No interest from either party. We could just sit and chat. And I told her so.

We had a nice chat. She came from somewhere I can’t recall. Somewhere in California I think – San Something. She came to Seattle to ‘work’ the WTO delegates and already had a few ‘hits’. I asked her how much she charged – $400 per hour. Bloody hell! Three strikes and I am out – love my wife, won’t pay and can’t afford anyway. But Dennis had other ideas.

Dennis started talking about the possibility of them coming to a financial agreement that suited both of them. He was trying to negotiate a ‘living wage’ related price – like any a good trade union negotiator should. But she got down to $250 and wouldn’t move from their. Still way off the $50 Dennis was willing to pay. South African trade unionist were cheap – we didn’t get paid that much. And we earned South African Rands. But Dennis was arguing that he wouldn’t take more than 15 minutes at most and that made it $200 per hour. I think he was pushing with the 15 minutes claim – that was just subtle bragging.

I started losing interest in their discussion and concentrated on my beer and the guy in the bar. He was having this incredible chat with the barman about his shares. And the barman was talking about his shares. The middle aged guy was a fisherman (with a walking stick?). Two average guys talking about their investments. So different from South Africa where only the rich can even think about investments – never mind actually investing. Welcome to the US where they talk about their investments and not about surviving another day.

The middle aged guy got up and started walking towards us to leave. He was about to exit when he turned around and looked at the prostitute and tilted his cap and said, “Evening mam. Send my regards to your family” and then walked on. She didn’t hear him. I asked her if she knew the guy that walked past and she said that she doesn’t know him from a bar of soap. “Well, I think you just missed a customer as he was talking to you and said something about your family”. She jumped up in a flash and ran after him with all the composure she could muster. They spoke for a few second and then got into the lift and disappeared. She didn’t even say goodbye. Dennis was shell shocked. “Hey Dennis, you’ll thank me in the morning when you look at your wallet”. And with that I went off to bed. To sleep. Alone. If Dennis thought she charged a huge amount wait until he tried it with me…

The next day was boring. We sat around and discussed tactics for the following day when negotiations was due to start. I was to focus on the African group of countries. The African countries negotiated a common position before we came over and it was my job to ensure we stick with this deal. With that done – time to explore the city and have a few beers.

Hit the jackpot at the first bar. I saw a group of people with steelworkers t-shirt drinking together. Well, I was a trade unionist and decided to join them for the evening. Had a ball. Shared trade union stories – they were all on permanent protest against a company that fired them a few years back. I didn’t tell them I was a WTO delegate as it became clear that they were in town to protest at the WTO meeting. It also became clear that they expected a huge protest the next day. People from all over will be in the streets – treehuggers, activists, trade unionist, anarchist all joining together for the first time to protest against something you could all agree on – their hatred of the WTO. It was late in the evening when we parted – and they gave me a steward’s badge for the protests planned the next day. I was now both a delegate at the WTO meeting and a steward and marshall at the protest against the WTO meeting!

President Clinton was going to have an official welcome on day one – and I was asked to represent South Africa with Minister Erwin and Kevin Wakeford who headed up the business delegation. Needless to say, they expected me to dress the part – suit and all. But no, thanks to my steelwork friends, I knew that the protest was going to huge and dressed like a protester instead – khaki trousers, boots, suede jacket, cap and backpack. Easy to turn into something more presentable if I tucked in my shirt and took off the cap.

Of course Alec Erwin was less impressed with my choice of attire. We all got together in his much fancier hotel room before we left. I walked into his room and he stared at my clothes for a while before saying, “Mr H, I know you like a more casual approach to clothing, but you do know that we are going to the official opening to represent our country. And we are going to meet President Clinton.” I smiled at him and said, “We’ll have to see who makes it into the building first.” He had a perplexed look on his face but just shrugged and said, “Lets go.”

Alec and Kevin had suits on – and their WTO delegate umbrella and ID cards (hanging around their necks). That was the standard WTO delegate dress for the day. Needless to say, they stood out like a sore thumb in the streets where everyone was wearing protester clothing. We turned the corner to the building where the WTO meeting was to be held and just saw a sea of protesters. It seemed as if all 50,000 protesters turned our way and, seeing the suits and umbrellas advertising their WTO status, they all shouted ‘delegates!’ And then they surrounded our little group of three. Shouting and screaming insults – and making sure we don’t get any further.

Okay, they didn’t surround our group of three. They actually surrounded the group of two – Alec and Kevin. You see, I looked like a protester with my clothes, backpack and lack of WTO umbrella and id card (tucked away in my backpack and pocket). Alec and Kevin couldn’t move. They were surrounded. I looked at Alec and Kevin, winked and moved into the crowd. See ya later, suckers!

Everywhere I walked there were little groups of delegates surrounded by protesters. None of the delegates were allowed to move and no one could get close to the WTO building. But I was free to walk amongst the protesters. Especially with my steward badge and all.

It was a sea of faces and dresses. Turtles, dolphins and even a few cows. It was something to see. Everyone standing for anything joined together for one day of protesting against a common enemy – the WTO. And the teamsters did their bit as well. Surrounding the place with trucks and buses. Making it impossible for anyone to get in or out. Man, it was beautiful and looked for a minute like the dawn of something new and powerful – people’s power.

I walked around to see if there was a way in. But the teamsters did their work pretty well. The trucks and buses blocked every angle. And they had people manning every opening to ensure no one got in. But I had to get in. That was my job.

I got to the building where Clinton was going to open the meeting. A few buses between me and the building. And a few protesters on top of the buses. And then the riot police waiting on the other side. Only one way in – over the buses we go.

I got on top of a bus and looked around. Good choice. No one else on this one. Just two cops on the other side waiting. But that shouldn’t be a problem. I have a WTO ID card. I jumped down the other side and the cops came running towards me – their riot gear shaking and weapons aimed and ready. I shouted at them that I am a delegate. They stopped about 2 meter away from me and told me to get back ‘sir!’. WTF? I repeated that I am a delegate – just let me get my ID card. But they told me to get back. Their orders were to not let anyone in. What? Not even delegates! These guys were taking orders way too seriously. The first order of the day was not to allow anyone to get through, but they forgot to tell them that they should at least allow the delegates through! (Tip for their superiors. Speak slowly, clearly and in single syllables. And remember. These guys don’t interpret orders. They just execute it – to the ‘t’).

They were getting agro and I knew that the best move would be to go back the way I came – over the bus. By now a few protesters have started to take notice of me on the cop side of the buses. And they started to shout encouragement! Booing the cops. They still didn’t know that I was a WTO delegate. I moved back to the bus and a few protesters extended their hands to help me back up. ‘Great stuff’, ‘yea, take them on’, and ‘way to go brother’ greeted me as I got back into the crowd. I was a hero amongst the protesters for a little while…

But I had to get in. That was my job. I started moving towards the front of the main WTO building. But a human chain blocked my way in everywhere. I played the game – walking around as a marshall and steward telling people to strengthen the lines. All the while looking for a way in.

Things were starting to look bad though. The crowd was losing control. The anarchists started burning tires, throwing bricks and stones at windows, and climbing on top of building shouting and taunting the cops. I have been at enough protests marches in South Africa to know that this was only heading one way – a clash.

I got close to the front of the main protest facing the riot police. I was about 3 people away from the front when people started to sit down. Bad move. I have learned from experience that you don’t sit down in front of cops when they want you to move. And then came the teargas. It was like being home in South Africa back in the 80’s all over again – protesting, riot police, teargas and stones versus rubber bullets.

The guy in front of me got hit by a teargas canister and it went off in his face. He started wailing and puking almost immediately. I grabbed my handkerchief, wet it with my water bottle and covered my face (a lesson learnt from many protests in South Africa – be prepared). It burned, but it was easier to breathe this way. And then I grabbed the guy that got hit by the teargas by the collar and started pulling him towards the side and away from the protesters – towards the WTO building.

Make no mistake. I didn’t do it to help the guy. I saw him as my ticket to get into the WTO building. I dragged him to the human chain and shouted at them that I needed to get him to a medic – and flashed them my steward badge. They opened up and the medics were just a few meters away. I threw the guy at the medics and shouted at them to help him.

I sat down, washed my face with the bottled water and then took out my delegate ID card. The cops were moving towards me – ready to either arrest me or kick me back into the protesting crowd. I got up and flashed them my delegate card and shouted, “Will you now please let me in?” They stepped back, pointed to the entrance of the building and shouted ‘go!’. I grabbed my backpack and walked over to the doors wiping the teargas tears from my face.

I got into the building and headed for the escalator to go upstairs to the meeting area. It was one hell of a long escalator. I looked up as I got on the escalator and just saw cameras flashing and rolling. Damn. The press. They have been starved of people to interview all day. No one made it in and here I was – a prey to pounce on. Someone to interview at last.

But I wasn’t meant to speak to the press. I had no training. What do I do? Push past them or say a few words? I quickly decided that I will speak to them. It has been about 3 hours or more since the South African team last saw me disappear into the crowd of protesters. I was sure that they were all back at the hotel room by now. Watching CNN to see what was happening. I will talk to the press to let them know I am okay. I am alive and well. And that I made it in. So I straightened my clothes and neatened my hair. Bring on the cameras baby!

I hit the top and froze. There were cameras and microphones everywhere. People shouting questions left, right and centre. I couldn’t register anything. Then I heard a question coming through my cloudy mind, “Sir, what’s it like out there?” And I said the first thing that came to my mind – never a good idea, “Well, the first thing that went through my mind when I smelled the teargas was home-sweet-home”. And it went out live for the world to see…

And the press loved me for that. I gave them a soundbite and that was what they wanted. I was their favourite for the rest of the day. I don’t know if it was because of my quote or whether I was one of only a handful of people that made it in and that they could interview. But I enjoyed the media attention and had my 15 minutes of fame – stretched to a few hours because of a lack of competition!

So I spend most of the day and evening talking to the press and drinking coffee. Nothing to do. The police had to clear the streets before I could leave the building again. But I did get a great t-shirt. Man the Americans are fast. I got a t-shirt that said ‘My trade minister went to the WTO and all I got was this lousy trade deal’. Still got it.

I eventually went to the hotel at 2 am. The cops escorted me all the way there. Two cop cars in front and one at the back. Me in the limo in the middle. So different from the day of protesting. But by now the streets were empty. Not a soul except for the cops.

I got to the hotel and headed up to Alec’s room. I wasn’t sure whether he would still be awake, but had to check in to make sure. Just to show him I am back. I could hear the tv inside and opened the door. He was still up with most of the team hanging around. He looked at me and shook his head saying (with a little grin on his face), “Home sweet home Mr H?”

Okay, so it wasn’t the best thing to say with the world watching. I wasn’t working for the tourism department or doing advertising for South Africa. Hell, I was never media trained. But then who made it to the meeting and who didn’t?

___________

(Note: a few other things on my Seattle experience.

Day 2 was even more unbelievable. There were absolutely no one in the streets. You could hear the riot police marching through the streets in typical military style. Their beat echoed off the buildings. Like police patrolling the streets in a police state. A sign of the future world to come?

I was walking the empty streets by myself for a little while – just to take in a bit of Seattle. And I saw my first sex shop. It had Barbie and Ken in S&M clothing in the window. I was dumbstruck and stared at it not knowing what to think. It was so foreign. And so naive. Barbie has never been the same since. A sign of the future South Africa to come?

And of course, all of this happened while my wife and oldest daughter was at home (before the birth of my youngest one). We told my daughter that I was going to Seattle. She was almost three and didn’t get what I was doing there, but she got the fact that I was in Seattle. My wife was cooking when she heard my daughter call from the TV room, “Look mom, daddy in Seattle”. My wife came into the room and saw the absolute chaos happening in Seattle. She knew that I would be one of the people in the rioting crowd. I always want to be in the middle of it – not participate, but try and get a sense of it all. Just take it in and observe people and their behaviour. And she did what she always does – she started worrying. She didn’t go to sleep until I phoned from the hotel many, many hours later. A sign of our future together when I travel?

I always thought that my home-sweet-home comment was just relevant to that moment in Seattle. But it only hit home how true it was when I moved to the US many years later. It still felt like home-sweet-home. Both the good and the bad.

liberal-definition

I am a liberal and proud of it. And I am getting a little sick and tired of liberals always having to “play nice”.

(Okay, social liberal and fiscal conservative – but you get the point.)

The problem with liberals isn’t that they take a knife to a gun fight. No. They have a nuclear arsenal but they know responsibility. They think of the other side. They think of what is just and what is wrong. What would be fair to say and what won’t. They shouldn’t always have to be so nice.

The problem isn’t that liberals think they are better than others. It’s that they think of others in the first place. They don’t want to insult them. Wake up! It’s not as if the other side think of you before they act.

Look, liberals have justice and history behind them. Liberalism means moving forward. Not being scared of new things. Seeing things as a challenge and taking it on. The alternative means being scared of change and wanting to hold on to old values and systems. You think that this was how America was build? (Or the world for that matter.) You think America would be here if people were to scared to do new things? You wonder why the liberals are at the coast? Because they tackle the world. Head on. Hell, we would still be stuck riding bicycles if it was up to the other side. Guess who challenged the moon?

I am a liberal. Yes, I have a few deep rooted conservative streaks in me. Especially when it comes to economics. But true conservatism thank you. I don’t like it when government subsidize business. And I don’t like it when government have too much power over social issues and my personal life. It’s not conservatism. It’s “selectivism”… when we “select” government to only conform to our values and we select to be tolerant to only those who look like us, speak like us, walk like us, do like us, eat like us, drive like us, waste like us… You get the picture. it’s not conservatism. It’s facism cloaked in pretty words. It’s socialism dressed in the latest value fashion. It’s nationalism shot with the latest high definition jargon.

But I am not always a nice liberal. I say that if a man slaps me I don’t hold his hand and wait for him to “come around” to my way of thinking. I’ve tried that. Guess what? It doesn’t always work. And I don’t have time for them to come along and see it my way. I’ll rather save the person who is dying of hunger and struggling with poverty. They are my real concern.

I am liberal and proud of it.

I am a liberal. But I am ready to rumble. Time to pull out the big guns of liberalism. Equality, justice, liberty and freedom for all.

Liberals… Stand up and be strong. Remember what you gave the world. The civil rights movement. Child labor laws. Equal rights for women. YOU gave this world equality. You gave it justice. Freedom. Liberty. You fought for it. And you won each and every time. Don’t forget that you have been on the right side of history each and every single time. But you only got it by fighting for it. By standing up and not being quite. And by fighting inch by inch. Step by step. Not always by being nice. Now is the time to fight for justice, equality, freedom and liberty for all. You made the world. Now take it back.

I am Liberal. And proud of it. But I don’t always play nice.

I am liberal. Proudly liberal. I am strong. And I am right. Feel my power. Liberal power!

(With a touch of true conservatism to add flavor.)

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I don’t give up easily. Especially not on hope. I always see something good. Some hope somewhere. Hope is stronger than the bond of love and the chains of hate. Hope lives even when souls die. Hope never gives up. But sometimes even hope dies. And with it everything else…

I look at my beloved Africa and I see hope. I see the madness in the Niger Delta area and I know that there is hope. Hope in the people living there. Knowing that they don’t want the lives they live. That someday it will be better. There is madness and death but there is also hope.

I look at Sudan and know there is hope. I see the kids dying and the people murdering and I see darkness. But I also see a spark of hope. Just a little candle light fighting the winds of hate and mayhem. I know the smiles of people and the hope in their eyes.

I see the Congo and can smell the hope in the air. I see evil taking our kids and making soldiers of them. Little kid soldiers willing to pull the trigger and end another life and their own. But I see these kids kicking a soccer ball and know hope lies inside.

I see my people dying of Aids… Suffering at the hands of warlords… Wasting away in the sands of hunger… Begging for life in the fields of poverty… I see all that and I still see hope. I see it. I smell it. And I can feel it. It’s in their eyes and in their souls. Hope, love and peace. It is there. Not strong and hardly standing but it is there being cradled in the arms of a mother feeding her malnourished baby and being carried on the heads of African women coming back from the watering hole. Small and weak… but hope is still there. I see a better tomorrow. I see a hope growing at the pace set by African time. It will come to those who are patient. Hope… Lives…

I see hope in Burma and I see hope in Iraq. I smell hope in North Korea and can hear it in Tibet. I can see it in the darkest of places. No matter where it is. No matter how dark and cold it gets on our world. I always see a little hope flickering in the wind. Sometimes it is just a little glimmer of hope. Not much. Just a little look in the eye. Or a hint of a smile. The soul inside shining through for a split second. Hope…

But what happens when I see no more hope? When there is no light fighting the darkness anymore? When hope is gone? What then?

There is a place where hope no longer shines for me. I see nothing. No life. No reason. No smile. No belief. No light. No nothing. I see no hope.

Israel and Palestine…

I see nothing there. Nothing…

I am not picking sides on this one. I can’t. I refuse. I won’t.

My world is not black and white. I am not either for you or against you. I am for justice, freedom, liberty and equality for all. But most of all… Most of all I am for hope, peace and love.

Come… Give me the reasons. Give me the belief. Give me your heart. Give me whatever you want to give me but I won’t believe in you anymore. Either of you. I see no hope and have given up hope.

I see no end to you killing each other. I see no end to you blaming each other. I see no end to either of you. I see no end to kids dying by your hands. I see no end to the blood of the innocent flowing from your rockets. I see no end to you murdering hope, love and peace…

Both of you…

Don’t give me excuses. Don’t give me the school kid arguments of “they did it first”. I don’t give a damn.

Stop!

Let me repeat that slowly for you. Read it carefully.

I… Don’t… Give… A… Damn…

Or put in another way. Just in case you didn’t understand me the first time.

I… Don’t… Give… A… Fuck…

You have excuses for killing the children of the other. You have excuses for murdering the innocent. You have excuses for every person who dies by your hands. But you have no excuse for killing hope.

Collateral damage…

It’s murder when you know it will happen. It is murder when you know that innocent people will die because of what you do. It is murder when you know all that and you still do it anyway. It… Is… Murder…

I see no hope. I see no hope…

It was killed by you. Both of you. Slowly but surely murdered when you put your hands on the throat of hope and squeezed the life out of love and peace.

You are dead to me. I will not give you hope. I will save that for those who want to live. Who want to peace. Who want love. And who want hope.

I see nothing in your eyes. In your face I see no smile. In your words I see no truth. In your hands I see blood. The blood of hope killed.

Both of you…

You two deserve each other. Hatred like this kills. It kills everything inside of you. Until there is nothing left but shells… Go ahead… See how much love that bullet carries. See how much peace are shared in the grenade. See how much hope explodes with each missile. The empty shells are you…

I know what to do when hope is gone…

I walk away and embrace the hope of the innocent. Elsewhere.

Ubuntu – I am because we are…

You two are not part of my “we” anymore.

Only the dead, the innocent and those suffering because of your hopeless war will be me. For them I reach out and say, “I am because you are”. But to those who war – I am not you because you war. You killers of hope.

When hope is gone…

That is when I nurse it an nourish it. Hold it and protect it. Care for it and love it. For those who really want it. And for those who deserve it.

Long live hope…

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Note: This was not easy to write. I have always stayed away from writing about the Israel-Palestinian war. I have friends there that I love and care for. People I hold dear. People that mean something to me. This is meant for the war itself. Not the people caught in the middle. Not even for those who seeks justification for this war. I know they have reasons. They see reasons. I see excuses on both sides. I see no peace. I see no end. I see people who are willing to kill each other until there is nothing left of the other side. Until there is nothing left anywhere. My ubuntu is with those who suffer no matter what the reasons and excuses might be. But this war… This endless war… Killing hope. I just see no reason for hope anymore. And I pray for them to see hope somehow. But I know not where…

A while back I wrote about my memories of Reagan and Thatcher – The blunting of the blood. (You don’t have to read it as this piece is based on that one.) How some of us now have such fond memories of those leaders of the 80’s. Yes, our memories take on such lovely scenery when we think of the days of yesterday. The good old days. Those photos of their smiling faces. When we still had crap music and even crappier clothes. I am so not going to talk about the hairstyles… We can laugh at how silly we were. But we can never allow ourselves to look back at those days and think that they were okay. They weren’t.

But all this reflection and softening of views make me turn to the current leader of the free world. G.W. Bush. Sorry, President G.W. Bush.

Let me be clear about this piece. Very clear. I don’t want any misunderstanding. I don’t want to be accused of something that isn’t there. No misreading please. This is not a reflection on America or the American people. I love America and Americans – and everything this country and the people stand for. I will back them till death do us part. This is one hell of a country and more important than most Americans will know. I am proud of the fact that my daughters have to say the Pledge of Allegiance in school. But I won’t go into that today. Let’s just leave it at that. This is about President G.W. Bush and what he stands for and what he has done. I respect the office of the President of the United States and what it stands for – but I don’t respect President Bush and what he stands for. This is about never forgetting and never forgiving. This is about the memories we will have when we look back at the time President G.W. Bush ruled the free world.

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I am shocked, or rather surprised, by a few people close to me who mentioned that he looks like such a good dad. He looks like a good guy. Maybe a bit stupid, but a good guy you know.

No I don’t.

I was shocked by my first immediate reaction when the person said that they hated what he has done but that he seems like such a good dad and that it looks like he really loves his wife. My reaction?

“Well, Hitler loved Eva Braun.”

I did regret saying it but it was an immediate reaction. Like the one second rule in self defense. I didn’t think about it – it just popped out.

I regret saying it because I did not mean in any way that Bush is like Hitler. Not in any way. What I meant was that loving someone does not mean I have to have any compassion for you. Or that I should in any way view your actions as okay. It’s not.

You loved someone. So what? There are a shit load of people out there you didn’t love.

You had good intentions? Well… We know about that road and good intentions…

You are better than Hitler. So what? It’s not really a yardstick to measure anyone now is it? I can only judge you on your own actions. And for that reason there will be no forgetting. No forgiving. No favorable views. No good memories. No blunting of the blood.

I can’t look at him and think that somehow there is a good man hidden inside. I can’t read minds. I can’t see his soul. I can only judge by the actions I see. And the bodies in the street.  

I can’t wipe away the bad that happened yesterday. The pain doesn’t actually feel less important. Time does not heal the dead left behind. I can’t blunt the memories of those who suffered. 

Can we look at Bush and think that he was a good guy who loved his country and not remember the warmongering? I don’t doubt or question his love for his country. A great country. It is worth loving. And it is worth defending. But the love for his country does not make him a good guy. It doesn’t change the lies of WMD’s. It doesn’t change the lies of victory never achieved in his time. The empty promises of war and vengeance.

Can we look at Bush and think that love ruled his life before anything else? Even though he never spoke out against terrorists of human rights in Saudi Arabia. He didn’t fund them. But he never spoke out against them. You are judged by the company you keep. And they weren’t nice people. And he wasn’t a nice guy. Sitting on a horse for the cameras or chopping wood for the reporters are called acting. Not real life. How many people died because of his policies? How much blood must he have on his hands before you look at the man and say he was fundamentally flawed? And remind yourself never to forget that this is the man who ruled and not the guy we want to remember as the one who loved.

Can we remember Bush as the President who amused us with his silly words and stupid remarks? Can we laugh at how much fodder he gave the late night shows and comedians? No we can’t. We can’t forget how he slowly but surely strangled the last line in Pledge of Allegiance. “…liberty and justice for all.” How the freedoms and rights and liberties and justice were slowly eroded under his watch. The Patriot Act was sold as the car with the latest safety measures and gadgets. And all we got was a second-hand salesman selling us a car that guzzled gas and made us more addicted to foreign oil. Guantanamo Bay was the victim of the hit-and-run accident that involved that car.

And I won’t forgive or forget his favorite side-kick either. Tony Blair… How can we forget his wishy-washy attitude about the war that was against the popular wishes of his own people. Now hiding behind his religious beliefs as if God send him to go into a senseless war. His willingness to follow Bush to the graves of the innocent. Like Thatcher and Reagan. So was Blair and Bush. Different sides of the same coin. He was bad. They are bad. Bad. Bad. Bad.

I am sorry. I can’t look at Bush and his stupid smile and feel any warmth. I can’t see his love for those close to him. All I see is the people dying in the streets and the erosion of rights. And him not speaking out against the terrorists of human rights. People dying senselessly. Blood on his hands. No forgiveness. No love. Nothing.

I am sorry. I can’t. I can’t… I can’t forgive if the person doesn’t ask for forgiveness. I can’t look at him and see a “good guy”. I can’t. I see him and I see the look of Reagan and Thatcher in the 80’s. He has given leadership a bad name. Because he did bad things. Blood on his hands. No love. No forgiveness. No good memories. Nothing.

I see his fake smile and teary eyes when he realizes his time in charge is over. And then I see his deeds. The blood on the streets. Rights ripped to pieces. Honor gone to shit. Ideals flushed down the toilet. I see him selling me shit but calling it sweets. You didn’t fool me then. And my memories won’t fool me now.

I won’t let time fade my memories. I won’t. No blunting of the blood. You ask for forgiveness and I will forgive. But not an inch until then. I won’t do it. I will honor the dead of yesterday. And I will honor the dead of today. I will honor them by not forgetting them. And not forgiving you.

You should have known better. You should have known better. You ruled the free world. It came with a responsibility. An oath to walk the straight and narrow. A promise to be the shining light in our dark world. And you snuffed it out like it was a single candle in a storm. Without a blink. Without regret. Without a moment given to the dead lying in your path. Without a moment of asking forgiveness. Because you didn’t care. You only cared about yourself. You were selfish and self absorbed.

Wash your hands and turn your back. That’s what you will do. Like they did then and you will do now. I don’t feel sorry for you. I don’t think you were a nice guy. I have nothing for you. You are empty. Meaningless to humanity. You have meaning only in the blood you left behind in the streets. The rights lying in the gutters of life. And the blood etched in our memories.

I don’t give a damn about what the terrorist and the fucked up coward in the cave did. I don’t give a damn about what Saddam did. I don’t give a damn about what the Taliban did. They deserve death beyond comprehension. But I don’t care about their deeds. I expected them to be evil. It was in their bones. In their blood. They were in my face. They were bad. And we knew it. We know it. We heard their hatred and saw their murdering ways. Like Hitler they were.

But you. You were supposed to be the promise keeper. The good one. The fair one. The just one. The one who would fight for us. Be on our side. On the side of the innocent. The bystanders. And you spat on us and those who suffered. And gave us a fake cowboy smile and a gun to our heads.

I won’t let my memories be blunted by the troubles of today. Today is today. Yesterday was yesterday. You were bad yesterday. And you remain bad today. I won’t let them say “he was really a good guy who loved his family”. I won’t let them think of you as being out of depth and maybe a little stupid. I won’t let you get away with it. I won’t. You weren’t stupid. Your mistakes were made by you. Knowingly. I won’t forget. Not while the blood is still on your hands. Not while the rights and freedoms and liberties and justice are lying shattered at your feet. Not while I still have my memories of the dead. Not while you forgot to ask for forgiveness.

No blunting. You let us down. You have blood on your hands. You. Are. No. Great. Leader.

No blunting.

Never forget. Never forgive. Don’t let it fade.

No blunting. Of the blood.

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